Is Drinking Soda Bad for My Heart?
You know that soda, pop, or soft drinks are not exactly a healthy drink choice. They are probably one of the worst drinks for your body due to the high sugar content and very few vitamins or minerals. Because of this, regularly drinking soda has been linked to an increased risk of almost every chronic disease from diabetes to liver disease. So, how does soda impact the health of your heart?
Soda Nutrition Facts
A 12 ounce can of regular cola contains:Is Drinking Soda Bad for My Heart?1
- 138 calories
- 0 grams of protein
- 0 grams of fat
- 36 grams of carbohydrate
- 35 grams of sugar
- 46 mg of sodium
It has no vitamins or minerals, other than a small amount of sodium. These numbers vary slightly for different types of soda, but the bottom line is that all soda is liquid sugar with no actual nutrition.
The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. One soda contains 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar. Basically, just one soda will put you over your sugar limit for the whole day. For women, the recommendation is only 6 teaspoons a day, so one soda is more than the recommended amount for the day.2
Soda and Your Heart
The American Heart Association recommends limiting soda because several studies found a connection between soda intake and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
In 2015, the Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the impact of soda on heart disease risk. Subjects drank either 10, 17.5, or 25% of their calories from soda. On average this would translate to the equivalent of one, two, or three 12 ounce sodas per day.
The study found that after just two weeks all the groups drinking soda had a significant increase in cholesterol and triglycerides. Those drinking 25% of their calories from soda experienced an increase in triglycerides by 37 mg/dL and LDL cholesterol by almost 16 mg/dL.
The increase in these markers was dose-dependent, meaning the more soda the subjects drank, the more their levels increased. These results are an indication that on-going soda consumption may significantly increase heart disease risk factors.3
What about Diet Soda?
Maybe it’s the sugar in the soda that is problematic for heart health, so why not switch to diet? Not so fast! Although diet soda does not have any calories or sugar, it may not be great for the heart either.
A 2012 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine followed over 2500 participants for 10 years, monitoring various health markers along with diet soda consumption. At the end of the 10 years, those who drank diet soda daily were more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke or have died from a related cardiovascular disease compared to those who drank no soda or even regular soda. The risk remained elevated even when other variables were accounted for, such as weight, exercise, and smoking.
Subjects that drank the most diet soda were also more likely to have high blood pressure, higher blood pressure, and be overweight.4 Ironic, since they are drinking a calorie-free beverage, right?
How to Quit Soda
If you are in the habit of drinking soda regularly, it can be hard to quit. Luckily, there are many healthier alternative beverages on the market.
Water should always be your first choice for hydration. Add a lemon or orange wedge for some flavor. If you miss the carbonation, try carbonated flavored water. There are many types of unsweetened waters available on the market that taste great.
If water just won’t cut it, consider other unsweetened or lower sugar alternatives like green tea or kombucha.
How you chose to wean yourself off soda is up to you. Some people prefer the cold turkey method, whereas others would rather cut back one soda at a time. No matter which way you choose, your heart and your health will thank you.
- Cola Nutrition Facts. FoodData Central.
- How much sugar is too much? American Heart Association.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1144-1154.
- J Gen Intern Med. 2012;27(9):1120-1126.
- Blog Contributor